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Old 11-14-2022, 09:54 AM
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Question Four soldiers in Alaska died by suicide in one month despite surge in mental health h

Four soldiers in Alaska died by suicide in one month despite surge in mental health help
By: Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY Gannett Syndication Service Updated 11-14-22 9:01 AM
Re: government/article268722542.html#storylink=cpy

WASHINGTON Four soldiers in Alaska died by suicide in the last month, an alarming spike that came despite a surge in mental health resources to the Army posts there. In May, the Army sent more than 40 counselors and chaplains to Alaska after USA TODAY reported a month earlier that soldiers with suicidal issues had waited weeks for appointments with mental health providers. In 2021, 17 soldiers died by suicide, including eight over four months late in the year as winter descended on the state, daylight shortened and despair deepened. The Army's efforts this year, which include mandatory annual counseling sessions for each of its 11,500 soldiers in Alaska, appeared to be paying off. Wait times to see counselors had been reduced. Through September, Army officials in Alaska reported that there had been one confirmed suicide.

But something happened in October, and Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commander of the 11th Airborne Division and U.S. Army Alaska, sent a letter Nov. 4 to soldiers and their families about the surge in suicides. "Many of you already know that we lost four Arctic Angels in the past 30 days to the enemy of despair," Eifler wrote. "After a significant reduction from last year, these recent losses are a heart-breaking reminder that this battle is not over."

The suicide rate among all active duty troops soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines increased gradually from 2011 to 2021, according to the Pentagon's latest report issued in October. In 2021, 519 troops died by suicide, with young, enlisted service members at greatest risk. The rate in 2021 was 24.3 per 100,000 troops, lower than in 2020 and comparable to the civilian population. In March, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the creation of an independent panel to review suicides in the military focusing on nine bases. The panel's findings and recommendations are due to Congress by Feb. 18. Three of the bases included in the review are in Alaska. Life for soldiers in Alaska presents unique challenges.

Temperatures plunge to minus 40-degrees, frequent training and deployment and geographic and social isolation have been cited as key stresses for soldiers there. The relatively high cost of living, alcohol abuse, sleep disorders in the Land of Midnight Sun and its long, dark winters can contribute to mental health issues as well. Among the general population, Alaska had the second highest suicide rate in the nation in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A relatively small spike in suicides at Fort Wainwright 11 deaths between January 2014 and March 2019 prompted the Army to commission a study. Its recommendations resulted in more than $200 million spent to improve barracks and build sprawling garages to shelter soldiers maintaining vehicles. Yet suicide continued to vex Army officials eight deaths in 2019, seven in 2020. The peak of 17 suicides last year drew more attention. Soldiers told USA TODAY at Fort Wainwright in February of waiting weeks to see a counselor for mental health issues. They also spoke of living in Arctic conditions of extreme cold and lack of daylight, physical isolation and problems with finances and relationships. Congress and the Army intervened and dispatched a contingent of 40 chaplains and counselors to Alaska, and members of Congress voted to include in the annual Pentagon spending bill financial aid and other resources for troops based in the state. Soldiers now can choose to serve in Alaska, an option that has resulted in 1,000 volunteers. Eifler, in his letter, wrote that suicide prevention remains his "#1 priority." Access to chaplains will be increased, he wrote. "In many cases, the indicators are not easily seen," he wrote. "We must all remain vigilant and ready to personally engage, before the point of no return, before the loss of hope."
Personal note: More and more of this type of stuff is hitting the headlines of late.
Ya know - I'm troubled by these issues and so many suicides seems awful of late!
I have phobia of being sealed in a steel structure of which only has one exit and
no windows. I'd rather be outdoors in any weather rather than sealed in a tank
or void. My service was outdoors in the air - or on the water above the waterline.
I refused sub duty too close quartered for me. Many of us have some form of
phobia what they all are - varies. Many will tell you they have no fear! Well that's
BS. Everyone has some type or another. They just don't tell anyone or pretend
it's nothing. I'm an outdoors person always have been since I was a kid. Many
just won't admit it - and tough their way through it - but at times they break
and without other's knowing about it - end up in a sorry situation!
Imagine being stationed in the poles or in a jungle or in a very hot environment.
All those closed quartered environments leave one a little skittish. Most of us
are acclimated to being outdoors - some don't even know how to swim. Some
may not like going in closets? Ya never know. Fear of snakes - Fear of bugs
and Fear of water. Phobias are not catchy their ingrained for some reason?
Most will never admit they have any phobias - I'd say the greatest fear is
death - as we all know - this one comes to us all at one time or another.
Me - I don't fear it as long as its quick. Even your mind - can be your own
worst enemy at times. Too much thinking - too many feelings of loss or
being overly compromised.
You can spot some of these folks periodically - their apprehensions of going
into dark places - their skittish mannerisms - its not unnatural but can
compromise your normal behaviors.
On board ships many would not walk on the catwalks at sea for fear of falling
When or during flight ops - here is where the action is and many guys are on
the deck - aircraft are moving - aircraft are maneuvering or jocketing on the deck
for takeoff. A sudden turn and the jet exhaust can blow a man overboard if he's
unaware of his surroundings. We've seen this happen.
Excessive noise can drive you nuts - deckhands have headsets and also use
hand signals; even the guys below decks in the engine rooms - headsets
are needed. When things slow down your head is still ringing for awhile.
I don't recall any suicide's on board - missing personal yes - but you don't
know if he fell overboard - or jumped or just missed rollcall. If he or she
can't be found - it goes down as MIA (missing in action).
I worked the flight deck for years. I've seen one guy sucked into the jet
intake of aircraft - and another walk into a prop. Yeow quick but terrible
to see. All were killed instantly - whereas battlefield combat has wounded
and medic field care in needed - until the helo picks them up.
But the issues of mental health in Alaska is troubling? First I've heard
of it. We all know its cold as hell - Yes I agree - but suicide - why?
Was he picked on or razed or just couldn't handle the excessive cold -
and if so - that should've been on his file before going North.
If you can help me on this issue drop me a comment - so I can read why
this happens. Up north there's a lot of isolation - that could be the trigger?
Extreme cold does something the body and mind - like extremely hot
and humid on the other end. It takes time acclimate or being closed
quartered - also seems to bother many!
Sad to hear about the boy's up North - Management will get to the bottom
of it and hopefully find the reasons and/or treatments for such issues.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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